Report shows some middle-income countries paid over nine times more for Covid vaccines

18 August, 2023: The public health organisation Make Medicines Affordable has released a report outlining the affordability of Covid vaccines in 17 middle-income countries between 2021-2022. The countries included in the report were Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Morocco, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam. 

The report shows that the existing system of intellectual property rules for vaccines has significantly contributed to global inequity in medicines access during Covid.

Multi-billion ISDS case for Netherlands’ climate action ruled incompatible with EU law

7 August, 2023: German utility company, RWE’s, €1.4 billion euros Investor State Dispute (ISDS) case against the Netherland’s climate laws was ruled as inadmissible under EU law by the German Federal Court, based on previous rulings by the European Court of Justice. The ruling does not directly affect the arbitration proceedings taking place in an international  ISDS tribunal, but it sends a strong signal that RWE disrespects EU law with its claim.

UK and EU FTAs seeking to restrict India’s “lifeline” production of affordable medicine to Global South

4 August, 2023: India is currently negotiating Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the UK and EU, among other countries, which include demands for stricter intellectual property rules, threatening India’s production of generic medicines and role as “pharmacy of the world.”

India is one of the largest scale producers of affordable generic medicines and accounts for a fifth of global supply. It is also the largest supplier of generic medicines to Africa in 2018, and is essential source of medicines for the Global South.

Colombian Civil society calls for withdrawal from investment agreements with ISDS provisions, citing need to protect rights

August 1, 2023: Six years after the Colombian Court ruled to stop the expansion of a massive open-pit mine to protect the rights of Indigenous Wayúu and Afro-Colombian communities, the decision has yet to be implemented.

The delay has been attributed to the ongoing Investor-State Dispute Settlement claim that Glencore, the giant Swiss transnational conglomerate which owns the mine, has made against the Colombian government in May 2021.

ISDS is a mechanism within some agreements which enables foreign (but not local) investors to sue governments for millions and even billions of dollars of compensation if they can argue, among other reasons, that a change in domestic law or policy has reduced the value of their investment.

South African group sues government for Covid-19 vaccines contract details

28 July, 2023: Despite widespread calls for transparency, to this day, nearly all publicly funded Covid-19 vaccine procurement contracts remain confidential. This lack of transparency has been criticised as one of the most significant barriers to vaccine equity, a violation of international human rights standards and, often, a breach of domestic transparency regulation.

A 2019 report by Transparency International found that only 7% of Covid contracts have been made publicly available, of those that have been released, most of the crucial information has been redacted. 

Demanding IPEF timeline threatens to undermine “open” and “inclusive” process of negotiations

25 July, 2023: There has been increasing criticism of the process for negotiating the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) with the recent conclusion of the fourth round IPEF negotiations in Busan, South Korea which reported incremental progress.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is a regional forum initiated by the US that proponents say will strengthen economic cooperation between its 14 participants and divert supply chains away from China. IPEF, unlike traditional trade agreements, does not include market access commitments like lower tariffs. Instead, the main incentives are increased investment and capacity building projects in addition to commitments to improve human rights, labour rights and environmental standards in the region.

Concerns over slow progress of Global Pandemic Agreement amid splintering of discussions

July 19, 2023: Global Pandemic Agreement discussions aimed at ensuring equitable access to medicines in the case of a future global health emergency have resumed this week at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The agreement aims to avoid a repeat of the "catastrophic moral failure" of the Covid pandemic, when delaying tactics by a few high-income countries meant it took 20 months for members of the WTO to agree to a change to patent rules for COVID vaccines to allow for more equitable vaccine distribution. A watered-down agreement was only reached in June 2022, by which time research shows that over a million lives may have been lost through lack of access to vaccines.

Australia-EU FTA talks stalled over agricultural exports and GIs, may resume in August

July 17, 2023: Trade Minister Farrell  and Prime minster Albanese announced last week that EU concessions in negotiating the Australia-EU FTA were not good enough and that Australia would not sign a deal unless it had real commercial benefits for Australia.

Australia wants more access for Australian lamb, beef and other agricultural exports and rejects the EU’s refusal to allow Australian producers to use names like prosecco and feta cheese (Geographical Indications).

AFTINET Submission to the Inquiry into Australia’s Human Rights Framework

July 13, 2023: The Australian government has launched an inquiry to review the scope and effectiveness of Australia’s Human Rights Framework and assess whether improvements can be made.

There has been strong civil society support for a reform of Australia’s Human Rights Framework, particularly for a new Federal Human Rights Act or Charter.

Clive Palmer launches second ISDS case against the Australian government with third case likely

12 July, 2023: The Attorney General’s Department has confirmed that Clive Palmer’s company, Zeph Investment, which is registered in Singapore, has lodged a second Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) claim suing the Australian government for $41.3 billion under the 2012 ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.

ISDS is a mechanism within some trade agreements which enables foreign (but not local) investors to sue governments for millions and even billions of dollars of compensation if they can argue, among other reasons, that a change in domestic law or policy has reduced the value of their investment.

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